If you are looking into the sport of dirt bike or you have bought a dirt bike or just thinking of buying one, you have probably thought of a dirt bike in comparison to mountain bike riding. It may be somewhat true, but the reality is the time required to master a dirt bike is far greater than anything you’ll think on two wheels.
Are you still hitting the dirt every time you open the throttle?
Whatever be the scenario, this article will provide you with in-depth details on how to make your dirt bike sport fun.
Riding yourself and taking advice from your friends can only get you so far. The detailed tips and instructions below will help you to get to the next level of riding comfortably.
It is imperative to learn the technique and get used to the raw power of the dirt bike by experience.
Before you conclude with anything, you should understand that everyone starts the same as you. They get better and better with knowledge and experience.
The following tips and techniques are not exhaustive but represent more of a foundation you need cementing before building on the other skills. Grasp these before you practice every time so that you can have a better understanding of riding the dirt bike
You’re Going to Go Down
I must emphasize that it is imperative that you wear the right gear when riding off-road. Before I get into the specifics of how to ride a dirt bike, I’m going to share my thoughts on the proper equipment.
Why? Because you’re probably going to fall…and if you’re like me, you’re going to fall early and often in the beginning stages of your dirt bike experience.
I’m not saying it’s guaranteed, but I’ve seen a lot of spills by first-timers; I’ve also seen folks who rarely fall.
So, just to be safe, get yourself a good set of
A chest guard,
Motocross or road racing boots,
Last but not least a helmet.
If you can borrow a lot of these items from family and friends that will be cool so that you don’t have to spend money in the beginning. Either way, make sure you have this in place. These protective gear should take you well and you can ride with peace of mind.
Probably your next question might be what size bike should I ride?
The first dirt bike I ever rode was a Honda CRF250, a big sized bike that fits me because I was a little big and can handle the full-sized Honda. If you are not comfortable with the full-sized ones, you should always go for small versions like CRF150F or Suzuki DRZ 125R.
There is no strict rule on which bike you should drive. Pick something which is comfortable for you depending on your size, weight, and height and get moving. After all, you have so many options available in the store.
Ok! Now let’s get into some basic things you should know for the dirt bike experience
Riding Position/Sitting position
The most important thing when you ride a bike is to know how to sit on it. The correct position is so important since it affects your turning, braking and acceleration, and every other little thing. You should sit on the front of your seat so that you meet the petrol tank (don’t sit on the tank). In this position, you should be able to touch your feet on the ground and you can reach flat foot with slight movement towards sideways. If you sit it further back on the seat, it will be harder for you to reach the ground with your foot, which makes quite a difference in your riding.
You can test your position by trying to stand up when you are riding slow. If you can stand without the pressure of your hand, that means you are riding in the correct position.
Nailing the body positioning is probably the toughest part of riding a dirt bike. It’s more than just sitting and standing like moving your body while riding your bike. Correct body position incorporates how and where you grip your knees, where your feet go on the footpegs, your arms, fingers and back posture.
Even though you will be handling the bike most of your time in standing position. You just can’t race effectively or tackle the variety of obstacles on off-roads with a sitting position. The best standing position includes the following features:
Don’t lean straight-up or back – position your head over the handlebars in a crouching stance. This enables you to use your knees to grip the bike’s gas tank for better control
Finding the best location on the footpegs will usually be on the center of your feet
Lean forward, keep your arms up and elbows out – away from your body.
Using the clutch is not frequently required on a dirt bike like a car. If you want to slow down during a turn instead of shifting down the gear by using the clutch, just practice reducing the speed by the use of the brake and maintain the same flow, so that you can accelerate quickly after a turn. You get this as you practice.
The use of brake should be done based on the behavior of your bike. If the rear wheel starts to kick, don’t grab the brakes just drag the brakes. This will keep the suspension from bouncing around which usually results in losing control.
Use Your Feet
You’ve probably seen photos of riders’ knee pad just touching the dirt. This should be done carefully with practice. Dropping your foot helps balance your weight distribution. If you’re struggling around corners and not dropping your foot, start learning how to. The trick is to put your leg straight out and point your toes up but stay aware of your surroundings. Leaving your foot too low will surely get caught in the dirt and blow your knee. You need to practice this slowly and you will get hold of it if you practice enough.
This is one thing you can’t learn from books. You might get tired of hearing it but you’ll never get better unless you practice. It’s easy to forget what came naturally last week and you must practice enough to get the same form and skills you learn every trip day by day. Practice continuously your body position, clutch and brake use, and use your feet among many other techniques. One thing you should keep in mind is that there is always room for improvement.
Standing vs. Sitting
Standing is the best way to ride a dirt bike, it gives you the most control and flexibility. You can position your body more effectively and you can be more prepared to deal with obstacles. However, if you can’t stand for any reason, you can ride the dirt bike by sitting down.
However, there are times when you should stand, one of those is jumps. Just sitting down while you jump is not going to work and it’s dangerous too. So, pick when you want to stand or sit and find the balance you like best.
The standing position should be firm feet on the pegs, knees gripping the thinnest part of the tank, legs bend slightly and positioned forward, head straight almost over the speedo, arms slightly bent and in line with the bars and your waist positioned over the join between the tank and seat. Never stand straight and always lean forward in attack position.
You probably heard to use your fingers for controlling the clutch on your normal bike. But for dirt bike riding you need your fingers for more control over your handlebars. So, the best position to accomplish this is to use the index finger and middle finger for operating the clutch and the rest of your fingers for holding the handlebar firmly. This will allow you to keep a good grip on the handlebars when going over rough terrains, rocks, logs, etc. The first two fingers can swap between the levers and handlebar as you require them to.
Look Forward & Keep Your Head Up
Looking forward and keeping your head up is a very important part of dirt biking. You won’t always ride the clean straight roads, you will have lots of logs or soft dirt on the way and you should watch what comes ahead and control the bike according to the conditions.
By mistake, if you focus on your bike too much you will miss the critical parts of the trail and land in the dirt. So always look forward and keep your head up. Depending on your eye your control will fall in its place. You have to trust your instincts.
Now we have seen the basic thing, let’s focus on a few routines to do at the beginning of your dirt bike experience so that you will get used to the flow slowly and consistently
Routine #1: Riding in Straight Lines
Now the goal of your routine 1 is to ride in a straight line. Use the clutch and throttle to start and maintain a slow and consistent speed. Keep your legs on the peg and try to go as slow as you can. This first routine will help you to keep up the balance which will help you with all the other routines.
Routine #2: Use of Front Brakes
Start with the first routine and come to halt using your front brake only. Remember you have to apply the front brake slowly and consistently instead of sudden jamming of wheels. When you do this gradually the bike will come to a halt but try to keep your legs on the peg until it comes to halt. If you can master this you will stay balanced even when the bike stops. If you can stand at least 1 second in balance, then you have mastered this routine.
Routine #3: Slow Circles
Now you have mastered the art of slow riding it’s time to go around in circles. Start with a wide circle at a slow speed. Narrow the circle as you go until the circle is as tight as you can get it. The goal is to do the smallest circle possible. The smaller the circle is, the more you’ll improve on your balance. Once you are comfortable in one direction, practice the other.
Routine #4: Draw an Eight
Draw the number eight with your bike, which is one left-hand full lock to one right-hand full lock and so on. This will give more control over your bike and doing it once with the left hand and once with the right hand will improve your balance. Similar to circles, start with a big eight and reduce as you progress, make sure you do a slow turn and keep your legs on the pegs all the time.
Routine #5: Lift the Front End
The idea here is to lift the front end in order to go over obstacles like logs, rocks, etc. Please note we are not going to teach wheel stands here (You can learn it later here) and we certainly don’t want you to flip your bike but more so we want you to learn a skill that you can use when riding. So let’s go back to them straight-line exercise, maintaining a speed of about 10k/hr and do the following.
Clutch in, push on handlebars, pull back, release clutch, and a little extra throttle (just a bit to start with, more throttle will raise the front wheel up and you risk of falling in the dirt). You will lurch forward a bit and the front wheel will lift off the ground. Keep practicing, the goal here is to get the front wheel up about a foot in the air.
This routine is an important one because you will be using this regularly when you ride on rock and logs and you will do it unconsciously when you get used to it.
If you want to stop for any reason let the throttle off, pull the clutch in and put the back brakes on.
Routine #6: Mastering the Use of Front Brake
Most of the time you will use the front brake more than the back, so we will do some front braking skills. Go back to your straight lines, increase the speed to 15miles/hr (go up to 30m/hr as you get more confident). Slowly pull on the front brake until you stop, keep practising until you can do it from 30m/hr to a dead stop with just a little bit of front wheel slide. This will teach you to stop quickly using the front brakes and also introduce you to the concept counter steering.
Routine #7: Counter Steering
Now let’s look into the counter-steering skill. Start riding the bike in a straight line, clamp the front brake on and keep it on. Sit in normal position and accelerate using clutch and throttle control until the front wheel starts sliding (remember front brakes are still on). Try to do this for 10 meters. This will teach you how to counter steer the bike when the front wheel locks up. If you get into trouble, let go of throttle and then the front brake.
Routine #8: Use of Rear Brake
Now it’s time to learn how to use the back brake and stop as quick as possible without sliding. The objective here is to stop the bike using the back brake alone without sliding at 30m/hr speed. Start with the straight-line routine and go up to 15 m/hr and start applying the back brake. If the back starts sliding, just release the pressure off and try until you can stop the bike quickly without sliding at 30m/hr. You need to practice this enough to achieve this breaking power.
Routine #9: Rear Brake Sliding
Using the back brake and sliding helps you to position your bike when going over obstacles like slippery wet logs. Slippery wet logs are dangerous and more hazardous. You should never go over them except from straight on, any deviation to a straight line could bring you down as the wheels of the bike will slide on the log in the angle of the direction you were going in.
Start at about 15m/hr and going in a straight line, put your back brakes on so the back wheel locks up and starts sliding and then using your waist and hips, move the bike to the left or right. Once you get to a 45 degrees slide or more, your exercise is complete.
Routine #10: Clutch Braking This one is going to be the last routine to get a complete riding experience of your dirt bike. The objective here is to stop the bike using the clutch and changing the gear. Going in a straight line in 3rd gear at about 15m/hr, only use the gear to slow you down. Pull the clutch to go to 2nd release clutch and you will slow down, when you are ready to go to 1st gear and just before the bike comes to a stop, hold the clutch so that engine won’t stop, then you can move to neutral to keep the bike in idle. Practise this until you can slow down using the clutch and gears from 30m/hr.